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Music has always been a means of pushing back against the pressures of modern society. Back in the 2000s, pop stars Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan spoke out about media scrutiny through their singles “Paparazzi,” “Piece of Me” and “Rumors.” Today many singers are still reflecting on these same issues, with the prevalence of social media adding an extra wrinkle to the mix. “I’ve never been perfect and I’m never going to be perfect,” Nessa Barrett, a rising pop artist who earned popular acclaim through TikTok, says. “There’s a stigma for people who are in the public eye that they’re less than human. I think a lot of people forget that I have real feelings and I’ve dealt with real struggles. What am I doing to help everyone else out there who knows me if I don’t share my story? How will I let people know they’re not alone if I’m putting on a facade and acting like I’m perfect all the time? So not only am I doing it to help myself, but I’m doing it to help everyone else.”

Photos by Marina Hunter

Photos by Marina Hunter

Before having her every move watched by millions, Barrett was a normal girl from New Jersey who loved to sing. She grew up with aspirations of becoming a singer but had no idea that a social media app would help her dream come true. “Everyone from my high school was downloading TikTok and as a teenage girl, I did it with everyone else,” she says. “The first video I ever posted went viral and ever since I started gaining a really big platform. I was able to use my platform to do what I’d always wanted to do, which was to come out to LA and focus on music.”

Although that initial video was just Barrett goofing around with her high school friends, she began gaining even more eyes by posting cover songs to the platform. While sharing her voice was daunting—especially doing so in front of an audience of over 1 billion TikTok users—her fans ultimately gave her the encouragement to release her first single, “Pain.”

“‘Pain’ was originally 30 minutes long when I first recorded it,” she says. “I wrote it on the piano and then recorded it right away in the studio. I basically was just crying and pouring my heart out into a song. I think every person goes through a breakup and I was at the time. I was writing about the overall feeling of being empty and alone, which happened when I moved out to LA.”

Photos by Marina Hunter

Photos by Marina Hunter

Barrett’s vulnerability hit home with her fanbase and just a few months later, she dropped one of her biggest singles to date, “La Di Die,” alongside fellow alt-pop artist, jxdn. In this single, Barrett discusses the pitfalls of fame and in the music video, she elaborates on this topic by shedding her picture-perfect facade. However, making this happen for the camera wasn’t as easy as it looked.

“I have a spider tattoo that I got right before shooting the ‘La Di Die’ music video,” she says. “It was scabbing really bad and there’s this scene in the music video where I had to cover up all of my tattoos with makeup and then scrub it off. The directors were yelling at me to scrub harder, but my spider tattoo cracked and bled everywhere—it was ruined. It was very painful and I just got it touched up.”

Lucky for Barrett, the rest of her tattoo collection is in pristine condition, particularly her script tattoo reading “Pretty Poison,” which is inked on the inside of her arm. This phrase represents the dichotomy of things being both beautiful and dangerous, and after getting it tattooed, Barrett decided it would be the perfect name for her upcoming EP. “I basically put my life into songs and that’s how my EP came about,” she says. “It was very obvious what represented my life the most and that’s why these songs are on the EP. Through these songs I talk about my struggles with mental health, with social media, with relationships and then finally being able to be happy.”

Photos by Marina Hunter

Photos by Marina Hunter

Barrett’s career may only span a little longer than a year, but in that time she’s already shown a tremendous amount of artistic growth. When she debuted “Pain,” that was her way of dipping her toes into life as a solo artist and now with “Pretty Poison,” she’s diving in head first. “I think there’s a confidence in these songs that I’ve never really had before,” she says. “It’s the most ‘me’ of any of my releases and I feel like I’ve finally found my voice. It’s just so cohesive and this is the most proud I’ve ever been of my music.”

While we generally keep our distance from poison of any kind, we can’t wait to down Nessa Barrett’s EP in its entirety. This songstress has serious potential brewing under the surface and it’ll only be a matter of time before we see her full power as a performer take effect. Bottoms up!